Attacks likely to upend Congressional, national agenda

Tuesday's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were a Pearl Harbor that, while not sinking warships, blew up the national agenda and American politics.

Every member of Congress - whether Democrat, Republican or Independent - will have to rethink his or her position on issues ranging from the sacredness of the Social Security trust fund to the adequacy of the anti-terrorist, concrete barriers surrounding the Capitol building.

From this day forward, no political candidate can safely ignore the vulnerability of Americans and their infrastructure - buildings, airports, shopping malls, reservoirs and even the air they breathe - to terrorist attack. They will have to demonstrate that they are aware of and are doing something about this prairie fire of public worry.

President Bush undoubtedly will respond to the attacks by sending a number of new legislative initiatives down Pennsylvania Avenue, including more money for the active duty military and National Guard to combat terrorism. Emergency money requests for the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and federal emergency activities are among the likely responses.

Legislators trying to reserve Social Security surpluses to pay down the national debt are apt to be crushed in a congressional stampede to go along with the president and throw money at the terrorist problem. The behind-the-scenes argument between local fire departments and the National Guard of who should get the primary mission - and federal money - to help the victims of terrorist attacks has suddenly been pushed front and center. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., a former volunteer fireman who founded the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, will be at the forefront of this fight as he champions existing emergency fire and police units.

The impact on Bush's single most controversial military program - the deployment of a national missile defense - could be positive or negative, depending on how the public responds to the contrary arguments members of Congress are expected to make once the smoke from today's attacks clears. Proponents now are in a position to argue that anything that reduces the demonstrated vulnerability of Americans, including a long-range missile attack from a crazed leader willing to commit national suicide, should be pursued - even though an anti-missile umbrella would not be leak-proof, and could cost $60 billion or more.

Opponents of rushing into a national missile defense can cite today's kamikaze-like aircraft attacks as proof that a long-distance missile attack should be pushed down the list of national worries and preparations. National missile defense dollars should be redirected to meet more probable threats, they likely will argue.

Charges of "intelligence gap" started to reverberate in Congress today even as smoke continued to pour out of the Pentagon. Weldon went on national television, for example, to charge that "our government failed the American people" by not detecting the terrorists' preparations.

"This is 21st century warfare," he said.

Congressional hearings, along with extra millions for the National Security Agency - which tries to eavesdrop on terrorists' conversations all around the world - as well as the CIA and the FBI are likely to accompany scoldings by the lawmakers. A number of lawmakers saw the attacks as acts of war and demanded retaliation.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was in this camp, as was Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who said the president now must "go after the bastards." Given such demands, Bush will have strong congressional backing in whatever he decides to do to make good on his promise to "hunt down and punish" those responsible.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.